by TOMMY JARRELL
Roughly two weeks ago I ran into Angeleno street artist Dr. Knudson while he was revamping his mural in Sunset Junction. Dr. Knudson has crafted many works of art throughout Los Angeles, though many of his works are concentrated in Downtown LA. Knudson has crafted artworks using acrylic paint, airbrush, chalk, spray paint, and patina. Similarly, it seems as though he’s capable of creating art on nearly any surface; he has casted his art onto canvas, copper, chalkboards, brass, napkins, brick walls, motorcycle helmets, and leather jackets. He’s created works of art for Night on Broadway, The Down & Out, 1720, DELIKT Clothing, Nekrogoblikon, Superchief Gallery LA, Manifest Justice, and Spring for Coffee, to name a few of his affiliates.
Dr. Knudson’s work primarily features gritty goblins, anthropomorphic animals, decrepit and post-apocalyptic cityscapes, and enchanting visions of foliage. After sampling his work it’s obvious that his inventive characters and settings are from somewhere else in time, though the influence of Los Angeles’s skyline and crumbling aesthetic have made a clear impression on his work.
The Art Itself
The mural that I caught Dr. Knudson refurbishing was originally created in 2015. In the time since, it has faded in the stark LA sun, but Knudson's recent work has revived it and returned it to its former glory. Its focal point is a small motorcycle gang composed of apes and goblins in a post-apocalyptic city. The goblins are armed and armored, ready to do battle and dispatch of any foes they encounter in this perilous world.
The most prominent goblin is standing up on his bike in the mural’s center. He has a monkey and a smaller goblin loaded up in a backpack strapped to his shoulders. The small, monocled monkey is seemingly performing the role of navigator as he has what appears to be a map in his hand. This monkey and his apparel demonstrate Dr. Knudson’s playful sense of humor. In addition to sporting a monocle, he is decked out in multiple wrist watches and an old military jacket akin to the one donned by the infamous Cap’n Crunch. The goblin in the lower lefthand corner, however, is much more severe. He’s holding knife between his teeth that reminds us of the implicit danger that is looming in this crumbling setting.
The arc of the silhouetted skyline in the background is reminiscent of Los Angeles’s. The sky that hangs above this scene is composed of beautiful, furrowed purple clouds. And in the heaps of rubble behind this motley motorcycle gang, there are many tiny, intriguing details.
Among all this wreckage in the background there are artists, animals, drunks, families, fishermen, heroes, and homies. There is a graffiti artist spray painting an octopus on a collapsing building. There is a family nearby innocently assessing the scene. Friends sit on a bridge smoking, drinking, and fishing like a catastrophe never happened. Another monkey, unaffiliated from the motorcycle gang, hangs from a mangled streetlamp. A turtle stands smoking in the doorway of a boarded up building. Then, from two separate rooftops, Batman and Wonder Woman look out over the remnants of the city, watching for signs of crime, waiting to leap into action.
According to Dr. Knudson all of these figures present in the backdrop of this mural are figures from the local neighborhood. For instance, the father of the building owner, that plays host to Knudson's mural, is the man fishing over the side of the bridge. The street artist who’s making an octopus mural is a local artist who goes by the name of Tones and his two sons are also included as well (one as the monkey hanging from the streetlamp and the other is sitting over on the bridge). The Batman in the mural is an homage to a kid in the community who had a Batman obsession. And the bearded guy drinking a beer is a late community legend who went by the name of Jimmy.
In a conversation that I had with Dr. Knudson he said, "It was important for me to make sure the locals were represented in the mural," and I think that's evident from the details of his work. "I mean they have to live with the art so it better mean something to them. Otherwise it just becomes some sort of selfish billboard for the artist," he continued. His nods to the local community demonstrate that Knudson is an artist who firmly understands that community inclusion is integral to the prolonged survival of his work. And it also demonstrates a level of consideration and respect that are beyond what is required, or even expected of him as a street artist.
Lastly, in the bottom right hand corner of his painting, there are two goblins eating TV dinners in the blue glow of an old television fitted with an antenna. These two goblins, who are participating in such a pedestrian pastime, along with all of the other figures populating this mural’s background, signal to us that life can go on even in a destitute and dilapidated place. And if life can carry on in this post-apocalyptic world that Dr. Knudson has painted, then we, who are far more fortunate by comparison, should be able to do the same in ours.
Where can you find this piece of street art?
You can find Dr. Knudson's mural at the corner of Fountain and Westmoreland. And while you can visibly see this mural from the convenient comfort of your car as you're driving past on Fountain Avenue, I do recommend that you stop so that you can linger awhile and explore this rich painting at your leisure. Dr. Knudson has left so many delightful little nuggets for us in this mural that it would be a shame for you to miss out on them.
Tommy Jarrell is a poet, writer, and artist who lives in Los Angeles. He has previously written for Bleacher Report and Throwback. His poems have appeared in The Squaw Valley Review and 805.